Metlakatla Indian Community v. Egan

PETITIONER: Metlakatla Indian Community
LOCATION: Dry Docks at Reed, WV

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 363 US 555 (1960)
ARGUED: May 18, 1960
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Metlakatla Indian Community v. Egan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 18, 1960 (Part 2) in Metlakatla Indian Community v. Egan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 18, 1960 (Part 1) in Metlakatla Indian Community v. Egan

Earl Warren:

Metlakatla Indian Community Annette Island Reserve, Appellant, versus Egan, Governor of Alaska, et al.

And Number 27, Organized Village of -- of Kake et al., Appellants, versus Egan, Governor of Alaska.

Mr. Schifter.

Richard Schifter:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The question before the Court in these consolidated cases is the right of three Indian fishing communities in Alaska to maintain fish traps where the Federal Government has specifically authorized them to maintain these traps and where the State has made it a crime for them to do so.

It is this conflict between state and federal jurisdiction, between the assertions of state and federal jurisdiction, which is the common question to the two dockets.

There is another question as common to both dockets concerning jurisdiction.

The two dockets differ on a question of the origin of Indian rights here asserted.

And it will be my purpose to address myself first to the common questions and then to the specific question in Docket 326.

As far as the general background is concerned, all three communities as I've indicated are fishing communities, their whole economy resting on fishing and canning.

A key element in this economic setup of these communities are -- is a maintenance fish traps.

Fish traps constitute an efficient way of catching salmon which has proved inexpensive or less expensive in the long run in maintaining of boats.

The right for that -- of Metlakatla to maintain fish traps has been authorized by the Secretary of the Interior, for many years and most specifically, was authorized in 1959 and proposed regulations have been issued for the fishing season of 1960, which is about to start authorizing them once again to maintain these traps.

Felix Frankfurter:

What's the aid of the legislation?

Richard Schifter:

Of the regulations?

Felix Frankfurter:

Of the legislation.

Richard Schifter:

Which legislation, Your Honor?

Felix Frankfurter:

Oh, what is forbidden by the State, by the --

Richard Schifter:

Oh, 1959, January 1959.

Felix Frankfurter:

Even the Secretary's authorization?

Richard Schifter:

Came in April 1959, for the 1959 season.

Felix Frankfurter:

Well that's directed against the -- the -- the prohibition?

Richard Schifter:

Oh, yes.


It's quite --

Felix Frankfurter:

(Voice Overlap) --

Richard Schifter:

It's quite clear that as far as the Secretary of the Interior is concerned, he is aware of the state law in this matter and issued the regulations in 1959 and proposes to issue them once again in 1960.

Potter Stewart:

Are these regulations by the Secretary of the Interior, over the years, been issued annually?

Richard Schifter:

That's right, Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

For the fishing season each year?